The Bone Driver
It was another sizzling hot summer in Texas, and Johnny Blaze wasn't enjoying it one bit. The early evening sun was beating against his back, the heat from its boiling rays penetrating through his hard core leather jacket and making him sweat.
Beneath him, the Hellcycle's engine puttered miserably.
"Heat getting to you to, girl?" Johnny cooed to his faithful steed, which tilted its wheels back and forth in irritation.
"All right, all right," Johnny chuckled, slipping his helmet on. He could take a hint.
Revving up his Dad's old bike, Johnny placed his foot on the gas pedal and sped down the highway, wondering what Roxanne would say to him when he arrived ten minutes late at his apartment to meet her.
"Johnny, you might be the Ghost Rider," he could hear her saying as, stinking of sweat and ashes, (earlier, Ghost Rider had been on a crime fighting rampage that left him smoking and would explain the smelly odors that would be radiating off of him) he stumbled into his apartment, "But, you're also my man. That means you can't just run out of here and get yourself killed on any short notice!"
In fact, those were the very words that spilled out of her mouth as an hour later, he stumbled into his book cluttered apartment, pretending to be confused.
"What? What are you talking about? I didn't just go out to get myself killed-"
"You know darn well what I'm talking, about, Johnny Blaze!" She shouted, startling Johnny into retreating to the back of the room, where he stumbled into one of his old stunt bikes.
"Honestly, Roxanne!" He cried helplessly as Roxanne pinned him against the wall, "I went out for a good reason! You see, there was this little girl who was about to get beat up by some thugs and-"
"Enough said, Johnny!" Roxanne hissed as, without warning, she grabbed him by the neck, and dragged him down.
Trembling from her encounter with the Ghost Rider, fourteen year old Molly glanced down at her watch.
Six o'clock. Her parents were going to kill her.
Without second thought, Molly fled from the alley in which her friends had cornered her in earlier, her heart pounding and her nerves in shreds.
Molly was already in big trouble. She had Michael and his gang to thank for that, and she didn't want to be in any more with her parents.
Michael. The name was a sore spot in her memory, especially after he had just betrayed her to the police for doing something she didn't even do.
Mad at the world for not being fair, Molly kicked at a trash can as she ran passed it, wondering how Michael could ever accuse her of stealing his money. It wasn't as if he had enough dough already, what with his parents being the big, smart doctors that they were…
"Need a ride home, missy?"
Molly stopped running. Looking up, she realized she had just about crossed a busy street without looking both ways, and saw that a taxi had pulled over for her.
"Sure," Molly said, knowing that she would've never taken a ride with anyone else. Not even the Ghost Rider, who had just miraculously saved her from Michael, Chris, and Jacob, her former friends from school who would've beaten her within an inch of her life if he hadn't showed up.
"Where are you heading, missy?" The driver asked, and Molly uttered her street address and apartment number. This was going to be a long night…
The next morning, Johnny awoke on the floor to find Roxanne gone. Swearing, he scrambled up, naked.
Women! He thought grudgely as he gathered up his clothes and slipped them over his body. There always doing this to me!
Once he was securely adorned in his old t-shirt and jeans and had a pair of sturdy boots on his feet, Johnny draped himself in his jacket and stormed out of his apartment.
Well, I won't be seeing her for awhile, Johnny thought regretfully as, taking two steps at a time, he walked down several flights of stairs to head outside to the parking lot. He knew that, after seeing him, Roxanne would want to be alone for a couple of days.
Why? Johnny would've sold one of his old stunt bikes to understand why women did the things they did, but never the Hellcylce…that was one thing he did just happen to know.
"Hey, girl," Johnny greeted his bike, annoying all the odd stairs he was getting from other bystanders as he crossed the parking lot and reached his bike.
"Did you miss me?"
Johnny could've sworn he heard the Hellcycle snort as, with an awkward heave, (he was still half asleep) he mounted himself on the bike.
Smiling, Johnny once again placed his helmet on his head and encircled his finger's around the bike's handle bars. Then, her engine roared…
Roxanne couldn't think straight. This always happened to her after a nightly visit with Johnny, and she knew that the feelings she had for him were starting to get to her.
It was another hot day in San Venganza, and Roxanne was standing in front of her camera crew, trying to act as pretty and pleasant as she could under the hot circumstances.
"What are you doing, Roxanne? Keep your eyes on the camera!"
Feeling way over her head, Roxanne turned her gaze back on the camera man. She'd been staring at a man, who, showing up on the scene uninvited, had walked past her and went over to lean against her and Johnny's tree where he just stood and watched her
At first, Roxanne had thought the man was Johnny himself but, after a further inspection, she realized he was too small to be Johnny and much older then the stunt cyclist.
Even so, after Roxanne had got her first good look at him, she sensed that there was a power in him, a greater power that well overpowered Johnny's. Evil power.
Shuddering, Roxanne resumed her biography. The news team had forced her to do one in celebration of her 2nd Anniversary with them, and to start things off Roxanne had chosen to tell everyone of her early relationship with Johnny Blaze, of how the two of them had visited their sacred tree, which was visible in the background behind her. Of course, this also meant that her unwanted visitor would be seen on televisions screens as well if they didn't get rid of him.
"Cut!" Roxanne shouted, feeling foolish as she waved her microphone in the air. "Someone wants to speak with me!"
With that, she turned on her heels and stomped away from the crew, her blue skirt swishing vigorously about her tan legs as she advanced upon her guest.
"What do you think you're doing here, mister-"Roxanne began, but stopped.
Face to face with the man now, she could analyze his features more clearly and as she did, she discovered he had thinning grey hair in contrast to Johnny's headful of raven, black hair, and supported himself about on a slender cane topped by a silver skull head.
"Hello, Miss Roxanne," he said, and Roxanne took a step back as he offered her a claw like hand. "I'm sorry if I have distressed you, but we have something important to discuss like…your relationship with Ghost Rider…"
At the mention of Johnny's 'curse', Roxanne suddenly knew who this man was.
"You're…you're Mephistopheles…"she stammered, nearly falling head over hills as her feet turned to water. "…he told me all about you…Johnny did…"
"I'm sure he did," Mephistopheles said, and grinned, causing the blood to drain from Roxanne's face. "I'm also sure that you remember my son, Blackheart, as well and…our last encounter?"
"I won't forgive you for what you did to Johnny!" Roxanne pledged. She became unnerved when the devil smiled even wider.
"I don't expect you to," Mephistopheles said, and Roxanne eyed him suspiciously. "But," he went on, and Roxanne blinked, "I do expect you to tell him this: You did a good job with that little girl, Blaze. Her father says that since the accident, her grades have been picking up and she has developed a much better taste in friends. Tell him also that Mephistopheles has a gift to reward him with for his heroic efforts…and don't forget to add that he should meet me here, at this very spot, at midnight tomorrow. Got that?"
"Why should I trust you?" Roxanne asked, and the devil laughed. Placing a cold hand on her shoulder he said, quietly, "Because…the Ghost Rider has no one else he can trust…not even you."
With these last words, the devil vanished before Roxanne's eyes, leaving her crying tears of frustration in his wake. She had to get up with Johnny, and soon.
"Look into my eyes!"
The voice boomed inside the murderer's mind as Ghost Rider barred down on him, his skull enshrouded by flames of fury as the devil's bounty hunter used the Penance stare on Miles the Breaker.
Miles. Miles as in Alex Miles, San Venganza's most notorious serial killer. For months on end Miles had been listed as one of America's most wanted in Newspapers all across America, and just recently he had been added on to Ghost Rider's own list of wanted criminals.
Being so, Johnny Blaze had gotten all the scoop he could on the Breaker, who earned his name by the way he handled his victims, which was to torture them first by breaking every bone in their bodies, and then shooting them afterwards.
That was how he had earned the title the Breaker, and it sickened Johnny, who had been hunting this guy for months, ever since he first made headlines. But, it was Ghost Rider who had finally found him. It was Ghost Rider who had the man trapped between his bony frame and an endless fall from a towering skyscraper…
"Please…stop…please…" Miles was begging, but Ghost Rider never lifted his empty eye sockets off of him.
"Feel their pain…see their pain you've caused…and suffer for it!" Ghost Rider roared, whipping out his flaming, steel-linked whip at the man and lassoing him with it.
Screaming as the weapon's flames licked all over his body, Miles pleas for mercy went unheard as, in one violent swing, Ghost Rider flung Miles the Breaker from the building and winced as his supernatural hearing picked up the gut wrenching thump of Miles hitting the street pavement below.
"Ouch," Ghost Rider grunted, throwing his chain triumphantly over a broad, spiked shoulder. He was going to report this to Carter Slade.
"I figured I would be seeing you again, bonehead," Carter said, watching Johnny Blaze stumble over grave after grave before finally reaching him.
Panting, Johnny collapsed on the ground, waiting for the last of Ghost Rider's flames to die down before he dared say anything.
Carter smiled. Helping Johnny to his feet, the original Ghost Rider chuckled. "I knew you would," he said, guiding Johnny into his humble abode.
Humble abode? Yeah, right…it was more of a shack due to its rectangular foundation and rotting floorboards. Yet, to Carter Slade, this was home.
Johnny never seemed to mind the building's lack of space, either. For, every time the young man would pay a visit, Carter would watch the lad in amazement as he flopped himself down in a large chair Carter had placed in the living room, and would sink down into it, depending on him, an old man, to stitch up any wounds that he had received the previous night.
The boy just made himself to comfortable around here!
Carter sighed. "Take off the jacket," he ordered, waiting for the jacket to come off before adding: "And the shirt, to. I know you're hiding more impressive wounds which I'm fortunate not to see yet."
Craig "Crash" Simpson had taught his stepson well; Johnny did as he was told.
Roxanne was having an emotional breakdown. She couldn't find Johnny. After Mephistopheles had made himself scarce, she had went out looking for him all day, and pretty much the following.
Think, woman, think! Roxanne told herself as she paced her apartment up and down. If I were Johnny where would I be…?
Sighing, she gazed out of the nearest window, as if expecting Johnny to pop out of nowhere right then and there.
Roxanne couldn't help but smile at her wishful thinking. She was recalling a time last year when, as she was picking out clothes for a date, she just happen to look out this very window just in time to see Ghost Rider scaling up a tower that was visible from where she was standing now.
She had been terrified of the sight then but now…she wished she could catch at least one glimpse of the Hellcycle, of Ghost Rider spinning out of control just for her…
"Get a hold of yourself, woman!" Roxanne muttered under her breath, thinking then of her father and how he had warned her about Johnny…
She didn't want to start thinking that he had been right, and she began to whack her brain harder and harder for an answer until suddenly, it clicked.
It was as if someone had just flipped a magic switch somewhere.
"Carter," Roxanne repeated the name over and over as it came to her, wondering how she could've forgotten Johnny's old mentor. "That's where you are Johnny…you're with Carter!"
Giggling, Roxanne ran out of her apartment, forgetting to put on a pair of shoes and her purse.
"Roxanne's probably worried about me." Johnny started to rise from the chair but Carter held him down fast.
"Not yet, lover boy," the caretaker advised. Johnny rolled his eyes at him.
The movement brought about a slight flare of pain in his scalp, which Carter had just finished stitching up.
"Ow," Johnny muttered, clutching his forehead with a trembling hand.
"See what I mean?"
Carter's words were lost on Johnny as, to the man's surprise, Roxanne stormed in, shouting incoherently at him.
"What are you saying girl? I can't…Ow! Not so hard, jeez…!" Johnny wailed, clutching his chest where Roxanne had just kicked it.
"You've got a lot of nerve to use that tone with me, Blaze!" she shouted, hauling Johnny to his feet just as he slumped off the chair and onto the floor. "Why didn't you tell me that you where coming here?"
"Because," Johnny whispered, his abs constricting painfully with each winded breath he took. "I didn't want you to worry-"
Snorting, Roxanne pushed him back in the chair, none too gently. "You've got a lot of explaining to do, buster," she said. Johnny could hear Carter chuckling.
That night, Mephistopheles waited for Ghost Rider under Roxanne's and Johnny's tree, growing impatient with each passing hour.
It was thirty minutes to midnight. His bounty hunter should be here in minute now…
Suddenly, as if on cue, the highway below the hill upon which Mephistopheles waited erupted into flame, and Ghost Rider was upon the devil instantly, driving his Hellcylce to a stop on the hillside.
"Well, speak of the devil," Mephistopheles exclaimed. He frowned when he noticed the woman sitting across the rear of Ghost Rider's bike. "What's she doing here?"
"Don't worry about her," Ghost Rider growled, whipping out his fiery chain in warning. "Just tell me about this gift that Roxanne keeps on blabbing about and I'll be on my way."
"What, this?" Mephistopheles said, presenting Ghost Rider with the Bone Driver, which was a wicked looking broad sword that was forged in the fires of hell.
Fascinated by the weapon, Ghost Rider accepted it. Hefting it in his hand, the demon studied it.
The hilt of the sword was melted into the shape of a pair of golden bones, which intersected each other so that they formed the shape of a cross. The blade itself was long and thick and when Ghost Rider swung it, flames leaped off the gleaming steel, making the night even hotter.
"What do you think?" Mephistopheles said. and Ghost Rider, weaving a sheath out of fire unto his belt, slid the blade into the sheath and patted its handle fondly.
"I think its perfect," Ghost Rider said. He turned his back on the devil once again, only this time, he had a new weapon. And he liked it.